[The] study released today of over 100,000 first-year college students showed high interest in spirituality, broad tolerance for religious pluralism, and a desire for spiritual growth among students surveyed. The study, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute, found that large majorities of first-year students have an interest in spirituality (80%) and are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives (76%)
Michael Tino referenced the study in his Young Adult & Campus Ministry report to the UUA General Assembly last week in Texas, and I found another survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education that 23% of incoming freshman identify as "seeking" religion with 15% stating they are "conflicted" about their religious identity. This provides an excellent response to the doubters and naysayers in Unitarian Universalist congregations and leadership that we lack potential, cannot organize a critical mass, or are embedded in too conservative a community to have effective, vibrant and healthy UU Campus Ministry.
The Chronicle Survey requires subscription access, but here is the brief blurb:
4/22/2005 Most Freshmen Say Religion Guides Them
By THOMAS BARTLETT
…1% Islamic 1% United Church of Christ 1% Latter-day Saints (Mormon) 0.4% Seventh-day Adventist 0.4% Unitarian 0.4% Quaker 0.2% Current views about spiritual/religious matters Secure 42% Seeking 23% Conflicted 15% Not interested 15% … (Find similar)
The Office of Young Adult & Campus Ministry (UUA) maintains an Online Campus Ministry Manual to assist congregations and students in developing and most importantly institutionalizing UU Campus Ministry groups. Our office also provides $50-$500 start up grants to any congregation or organization with a plan to organize and minister on campus.
I want to work to publicize this survey data more widely and directly to the gatekeepers and student leaders in our Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. I believe this is hopeful if not deep down inspiring information that can cement our resolve to be accessible and welcoming as a liberal religious faith community on college campuses. We need to nurture and minister to the seekers, the conflicted, as much as to the briding youth who choose to attend college and are often at the forefront of leading UU Campus Groups (as of 7/1/05 there are 141!). We not only need to support and grow these existing groups, but develop new ones. I plan to work with the UU Campus Ministry Advisory Committee to write a plan for fostering more groups over the next 3 years.